Pretty Girls are People, Too.

My sister once asked me how I managed to be both valedictorian and prom queen of my graduating class.  Nerd and popular don’t often mix.  It took several hours to figure out the answer.

I moved.

When I was 16 years old my family moved from Texas to Maryland.  In my new school, no one knew the awkward 14-year-old with braces. Instead, they met the 16-year-old me right after a Texan summer of life guarding, tanned skin, sunny blond highlights, and all.  One boy asked me out two days after we moved.  Another started leaving anonymous love notes in my locker.    And that was before I got a haircut that started turning heads as I walked down the street.  

My senior year, in all appearances I was living the high school dream.  I dressed modestly and didn’t seek out attention, but attention came to me anyway.  I remember the teenage boys at Blockbuster giving me free candy with my movie rental, the requests for my phone number while I stood in line at Starbucks, and the wolf whistles as I walked down the street.  I had a new story of random male attention every week.  The world just kept telling me over and over again that I was beautiful.

I hated it.

Let me repeat that so it can sink in.

I hated it.

I’ve typed and retyped this next sentence over and over again, erasing it and starting over, because I’m scared.  This is where people usually laugh me off, where I know some people stop listening to me.  The cry of the bullied and outcast is so universal, so heartfelt, that when the opposite cry tries to sound, people tend to think it’s not serious.

But please listen.  Please.  Because while this cry may not be as common as bullying and outcasts, that doesn’t mean it’s not serious.  There must be some other girls out there that have felt the way I did.  I’m writing this for them.  Hopefully I won’t lose my nerve before I hit “Publish”.

You see, my parents raised me with conservative values.  While I didn’t broadcast it or preach sermons, my classmates knew I was saving sex for marriage.  I was interested in boys and had my string of crushes, but I didn’t want a physical relationship.  I wanted a boy to like me, not my body, even when I was 17.

Despite that, at age 17 I watched the world place all my value on my looks.  When boys whistled or let their eyes linger on me, I knew their attention had nothing to do with who I was as a person.  If I’d had a different body, they wouldn’t have given me a second glance, and I knew it.  Despite my modest clothing, there were days when I felt like my whole worth was summed up in my fortunate genetics and a nice collection of body parts.

And it wasn’t just strangers.  Everyone in my school was nice to me.  Everyone.  Even the bullies and the mean girls were all sweetness as they complimented my shoes and hair.  Did they think I didn’t see how cruel they were to one of my best friends?  Did they think I didn’t notice how they teased and manipulated the boys I respected and cared about?  What made me different?  Why were they nice to me when they were so mean to my friends?  I knew why.  I weighed 103 pounds and had big, brown eyes that people described as “movie-star pretty”.

None of that had anything to do with who I was – my convictions and beliefs, passions and interests.  I could have been anyone in that body and been treated the same way.  It was hard to believe I had value beyond my appearance, and even worse, it was hard to trust the kindness of the people around me.

When everyone is nice to your face, how do you know who’s being real and who’s just making surface judgments?   When a boy showed interest in me, would he still like me if I looked different?

During my junior year at my new high school I had two classmates that tried to pursue me, but I knew that both of them were putting me on a pedestal.  They projected their ideal girl onto my image without giving any thought to who I was, my quirks, joys, and cares.  I turned them both down.  By senior year, when my Maryland classmates knew me better, none of the boys “liked” me in that way.  I was appreciated enough in a general sense to be voted prom queen, but not one guy asked me to be his date to prom.  I was the girl boys talked to about the other girls they liked.  No one asked me out.

The contrast was weird, and it messed with my head.  The world kept telling me over and over again that I was valuable because I was beautiful – but when I refused to let appearances be the definition of my self-worth, nobody wanted to be with me.

They don’t teach you how to deal with that.  They don’t give seminars for the pretty girls who want to be appreciated for something other than their beauty.  And because so many people want to be beautiful, they don’t understand when you beg them to look past the surface and see the real you.  I became fixated with the idea of facades.  I wrote poems crying out for society and my classmates to stop for a moment and really look at me – not my face or body, but me, the person!  As morbid as it sounds, I used to wonder how my life would change if I became horribly scarred or deformed in some way.  Who would stick around?  Who would still care about me if I wasn’t pretty anymore?

I never talked about it, though.  I had good friends.  Amazing friends.  They cared for me and supported me through high school heartbreak and serious family emergencies.  They understood my conservative beliefs and knew I didn’t like being leered at, but I couldn’t find a way to make people understand my emotional insecurity.  Most of the time I didn’t try.

For me, it took meeting my husband to finally reconcile my appearance with my sense of self-worth.  From day one, he saw the real me and was attracted to me anyway.  I am so blessed to have him.

But I can’t believe I’m the only girl that’s felt this way, so I have to tell my story for them.  Please, even if you do not understand, be kind in your comments.  On the off-chance that I’m right, don’t be mean for their sake.

…and for my sake, too.  This wasn’t easy for me to write.

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53 thoughts on “Pretty Girls are People, Too.

  1. You bring up a good point of view — that exterior beauty can be a burden at the same time that it’s a blessing — and I think your blog post is very valuable for making other readers see beauty from an alternate perspective. I am also glad for you that you have good friends and a husband who see you as you are, not who they imagine you are.

    To my mind, you are to be admired for valuing the inner beauty in yourself and other people, and for being brave enough to hit that “Publish” button. Just saying. 🙂

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  2. This is a very important and thoughtful post — I think it’s important for us to consider how objectifying beauty, especially in very young girls, can take away from appreciation of their other gifts. I read something once about how we need to compliment young girls not on how pretty they are, but on how smart, strong, funny, and so on they are, so they learn to appreciate themselves for more than just their looks. I am happy to hear that you were raised to see yourself who who and what you are, not just what you look like!

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    • That is so true. I’m glad for the upbringing my parents gave me, but I worry about the girls who don’t learn that message at home. That was the other reason I wrote this. Thanks for the comment and the advice.

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  3. I can understand how difficult it might have been for you to write this. Let me tell you just this: Never be afraid to state your opinion out loud. No matter how hard it is to do, the world will never evolve if you don’t. What ever it is that you don’t like, you must say it. Whatever your opinion is, with your writing skills, nothing can ever go wrong. Congratulations for doing it!

    Where ever you live, this is a reality. You’ve got to see someone’s appearance before you even have a chance to know them. It’s not like we really had a chance, our world is physical. Where we can make a difference is in how you will approach a person, without any consideration of how much that person conforms to your standard or not. This means, going over our human nature, proving we have evolved over the most basic animals.

    I think that might be why I loved the Internet when it came out (or at least entered my life) some 15 years ago. That was before we had blogs, before we had digital pictures of us everywhere. (I knew a guy, he was really cool because he owned a digital camera — these things sold for $600 back then, that was the entry-level model.) Back then, I could meet with someone from the inside, with absolutely no bias for physical appearance, because we had no way to know what that other person looked like. Until the first meet up, at which point you already knew enough of that person that the physical look didn’t cause much reaction.

    Things didn’t evolve the right way from that point, though. Now I got to see your face before I even had a chance to read your very first post. I’m willing to bet the pretty girl is more likely to get many FB friends than the less fortunate one.

    Unfortunately, not every pretty girls share your vision of life. How many pretty girl did I encounter that actually use their look to get through life. How many of them didn’t feel the need to develop any skill or manner, as they didn’t require them. How many of these pretty girls are just plain boring girls once you get past the first glance (or past the entry page of their FB or blog, depending of how that first encounter occurs).

    I always tried to avoid making a judgement based on physical look. It’s usually very rewarding when successful, but how hard is it to bypass the human nature in the deepest of me….

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    • I know there are pretty girls that don’t share my views. I’ve encountered them myself, and they drive me crazy. But the world lets them get away with it, which just reinforces the idea that looks are valuable, no matter what’s underneath the surface. It’s frustrating. And if those girls didn’t have a positive influence like I did teaching them different values, I can kind of understand how they end up that way. Based on the number of free things I was offered just on my looks, it would be easy to learn that I can just use my appearance to get through life. Fortunately, I have bigger dreams than that!

      I’m glad there are people who make a conscious effort to not make snap judgment based on appearances. That’s all I ask. 🙂

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  4. I have felt the same way. I’m currently 17, so this is very interesting to me. I don’t think I’ll be “prom queen” or anything, but I definitely have experienced boys (and peoplein general) who don’t see me as a person (they only See my outer beauty) and ts frustrating and hurtful at times. Thank you for writing this

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    • You’re welcome. And thank you for commenting and letting me know. You just made my struggles to write this post completely worth it. You’re right – it’s both frustrating and hurtful, and I’m sorry you have to deal with it. Things do change as you get older, though. I promise.

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      • You seem like a very strong person and you remind me of an older version of myself. I’m really happy I found your blog. I’m sure I will benefit from a lot of things you have to say.

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  5. I’m impressed with your open comments, with 23+ years giving therapy to people for similar problems, the problem wasn’t you or your looks the problem is the society we live in. If something is beautiful regardless what that thing is, people even you, will observe it and maybe even make a comment or just stare at it, it’s just human learning. Understanding this process when people see your beauty you have to look beyond their wrong programming and help them to realise there is more to you. What do you do when you see someone who you think is good looking? We all have wrong programming (behaviour) even the good looking people, maybe if you weren’t so taken with your good looks and not prejudged those who tried to get to know you, you might have realised that maybe not everyone was as shallow as you thought they were! Regardless how thinly you slice a piece of cheese there’s always two sides!

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    • I appreciate your comment, and I do agree that there are two sides to every story. However, some of what you just said are exactly the types of comments that make it difficult for girls like me to talk about this, even though you may not realize it. It concerns me that you give therapy to girls with this problem, and yet you say things that are actually a bit hurtful.

      A girl who feels hurt and frustrated over being objectified does not need to be told that maybe she’s just full of herself and needs to get over it. I was not “taken” with my appearance. Instead, I felt belittled and emotionally insecure, but comments like yours kept me silent for ten years. At age 17, I was ogled, whistled at, and had inappropriate comments shouted at me on a weekly basis. Are you saying that I should have been OK with being objectified like that? Because I hated it, and that’s not the same as being “taken” with my looks or prejudging people. I hope you don’t say things like that to girls you counsel, because words like that just dismisses our pain and shuts us down. We need to be heard, not told to stop complaining about being pretty.

      I did meet people who were not shallow, and I became friends with them. I did not prejudge, but I did have trouble trusting because I had been hurt before. I gave people a chance, and I always tried to be kind, even with the people I felt weren’t seeing the real me.

      I understand that we all make decisions based on first impressions. That’s why I wrote this – to try to bring some attention to the issue. I don’t claim to be perfect. I just have a story to tell.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Mrs. Robertson – This is the first day I am looking at your blog and as I haven’t had the chance to look at the rest of your posts yet, I am delighted to say that I am very much looking forward to reading further!

        As someone else has already noted, this is an extremely fragile topic and you have touched on it with grace and the right amount of honesty – there is no simple way around this topic as when women discuss their own aesthetics it is usually interpreted far too quickly as pride, vanity and arrogance. You have clearly shown you are not taking your looks for granted but have pinpointed one of the difficulties of being a teenager – we all have to go through a very emotionally unstable time while ALSO dealing with puberty and hormones all at once.

        As a girl tries to confront how boys “see her” (and mainly just her body) she is trying not to assume that he only “sees” her appearance. Of course this is difficult for her! I don’t have as much sympathy for the boys going through puberty . . . (Perhaps I should but I think there needs to be more self discipline for the wolf whistlers) My high school experience was quite antithetical to yours because I was a late-bloomer nerd, but my parents raised me in a very similar household with Christian values and was told I was valued much beyond any external view of appearance. This was helpful later when I had to confront issues similar to yours later in life. I do think it is a struggle that everyone needs to confront – and it is more than just one pretty girls need to address. But ‘pretty girls’ and their concerns are just as important as everyone else’s and yes, they do get overlooked or swept under the rug.

        It is also about how all of us look at one another. We make judgments and expectations much too quickly without getting to know each other first. I also don’t think it gets any easier as we get older in some ways…but we can be more aware! Thank you for speaking up about this as it is a delicate topic. Looking forward to reading more from you.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. beauty = “fortunate genetics and a nice collection of body parts.”
    and if pride seeps in, adhering to that cultural standard can be so damaging
    i’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and appreciate what you’ve written.

    having daughters,
    i hate not knowing how to handle this
    how to help them build a boat that will sail through/in this sea of cultural bias
    and not around it – that isn’t working
    (right now they’re young and think they’re mermaids – so no boat needed yet)
    but i don’t want them swimming that sea
    i want character to be the rudder not the fickle wind of superficial beauty
    but they are fortunate as you said – and the wind will blow fair for them
    so here i am looking at this storm looming and not knowing what to do
    i don’t know what to say
    or what i am doing
    or how its going to effect/affect them
    what ever i do

    I just want to love them and call them beautiful
    because they are.

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    • I think all you can do is teach them their life lessons, to be kind and respectful to all human beings. I know society isn’t that way, but at least they’ll be aware of that and learn to be patient. We are all young once and that was our time to learn and grow, and your daughters will do the same. Just trust that you raised them right.

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  7. I have had similar experiences my whole life – people affirming my beauty all the time without really knowing who I am. While it is a compliment, and I am polite, I truly dislike it when people comment on my looks, it just makes me uncomfortable. As you stated, had you looked different, would someone give you a second glance? Life really is like rolling the dice, everyone looks different and they can do little to control it. Unfortunately we live in a society that places high value on good looks. People are definitely nicer to me, I’ve gotten job opportunities based on my looks, it’s contributed (in some ways) to my confidence and helped me become who I am today. I try to treat others as my equal, regardless of looks or status, and I hope that one day when my looks fade, others will do the same for me.

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  8. Pingback: How Barnes & Noble Prepared Me for Life After High School | Avoiding Neverland

  9. This is from a woman who is over 60. When I think back in time and remember the really pretty girls I knew in high school and college about 45 years ago, not one of them, is still pretty in the same way today. Many are very attractive. Some glow from within. But they no longer have the kind of beauty that turns heads or provokes wolf whistles on the street.
    Physical beauty is fleeting. For some, it comes unexpectedly in the teen age years to young girls who really aren’t sure what happened to them and how they should manage it. Then slowly, over the course of many years it gradually wanes. For some women who have grown accustomed to being perceived as beautiful, the waning of that beauty can be difficult, and can cause a mini identity crisis, just as becoming beautiful caused some confusion in the teen years.
    On the other hand, I have seen some absolutely beautiful smiles on women who are in their 80’s and even 90’s. These are not the smiles of a pretty smooth face, but smiles that emanate from within and communicate more out of their deep well of life experience than a teenager ever could simply because teenagers do not have that experience. I remember being in the hospital room of a woman who was close to death when she unexpectedly smiled one of those smiles, and everyone who was in the room including nurses and family members gasped at the beauty of her smile.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I just saw this post! It’s amazing. I kind of had this situation happen to me, as well. At 14 I was an awkward, crazy girl. At around 15, we moved, started going to a new church, and I learned a few things about being a girl. All the girls at this church are impossibly beautiful. It let me aspire to be that pretty, as well. I learned from the best.

    But getting to see them a little more now, knowing them better, I feel bad for them. For instance, V (better not mention her full name on here) definitely uses her beauty. But I notice that I can never be honest around her. And it feels as though she is never honest around me. Poor girl. Maybe she feels this way?

    I’m sixteen now, and probably the epitome of using beauty to turn heads. I get plenty of whistles, as well. But I wonder sometimes, if I weren’t so pretty, would I have more close friends? I’m so lucky to have a sister. But nobody here, in this new place, ever seems sincere. I just want to have the opportunity to share secrets with someone who trusts me. I want people to realize that beyond just being beautiful and quiet, I have things that I want to share with them. Nobody inquires about my interests, if I like to draw, or asks to hear me sing. When I do mention something else that I like, like an artist, or my future dreams, they criticize me.

    And I always envied this one girl at my old school, Jess. She was the epitome of popular, and beautiful, and she was so talented! It was my goal from 8th grade on to be like her. I think I’ve achieved that goal by now, but somehow, I’ve lost other things in the process. And because my prettiness is all I’ve got to use, since nobody ever asks about anything else, I use it to it’s fullest. Being fake has power, I suppose.

    Thank you so much for the post!

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  11. Question what is pretty? Pretty has been viewed differently over time . . . When we were cave people we didn’t have “razors, make-up, clip in’s, perfume . . . the list goes on and on . . .

    ~Cool post…

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  12. I have felt this way time and time again and honestly, its made me feel less beautiful. The more comments and applaud . . . the more heartbreak. The harder it is to hve a relationhip with trust. Thank you for sharing this, people need to see it.

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  13. I would even shorten the title to “girls are people too”.
    You’ve shared something that was difficult to share and important to share and something that You experienced. In no way do I want to minimize it or take away from it, but I think it’s important to note that girls and women all, at some point, get seen as simply objects or specific body parts. Pretty or not, there is always someone ready and willing to objectify or take advantage of girls.
    I spent a couple years working as a counsellor with a group of teen moms and was always shocked at how they were seen by men. They were consistently propositioned and hit on by guys who figured that simply because they already had children they’d be willing to become physically intimate, even with strangers.
    Thank you very much for sharing.
    G.

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  14. This such an inspiring story. I am fifteen, and I’m starting to look like what society calls ‘beautiful’, I’m not being egotistic, I’ve had people say to me, “You look just like a model!! Tall and slim” well, most people don’t know that I got so slim but developing anorexia, and now I’m prejudge with both and I’ve been battling thee long and hardest battle at the mere age of 12 till today. Over this time I’ve really learn a lot and aged wayyy past my years. So now I blog for advice, inspiration and hope for people and all struggles, Your story made me realize how little society supports us. We’re pretty, so how can we have any problems? How can we be unhappy? I’ve had people say to me, ” I wish I was that pretty”, well, I almost lost a lot more than my looks when I developed this disease. Thee sad part of this is that I was born with anorexia, and most people think its my fault. Thank you for your story and reply to let me know you read it!

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    • You make a good point. Such focus on appearances can not only be frustrating and belittling, but can actually lead to serious, damaging health problems. I’m glad you’ve been able to speak out about your story and share your perspective, too. It’s a hard topic to discuss, but so important, as you clearly know. Thanks for stopping by!

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  15. Thank you for posting this. As a teenager, I do find myself occasionally envious of the ‘pretty girls’, I realize, of course, that this is foolish, but your post was helpful in both humanizing ‘them’, and discouraging me from falling for an overly appearance-based culture.

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  16. AMEN SISTER! I am very happy to read this post, it is a topic I plan to focus on as the root of my young adult fiction novel. It is extremely hard to talk about a topic like this without the fear of sounding “stuck up” or “conceited”. It’s a very real issue that deserves attention and respect. Kudos to you 🙂

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  17. “As morbid as it sounds, I used to wonder how my life would change if I became horribly scarred or deformed in some way. Who would stick around? Who would still care about me if I wasn’t pretty anymore?”

    This is very, very true. It’s not morbid. I think most of us have thought about this at least one time in our lives.

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  18. It’s kind of funny that I found this blog post only moments before I left the house, promising I’d find time to read it later. From the title I could guess what the content was, as I’ve had trouble with this as well.

    Moments later, while walking down the street in shorts and a tank top, a cross-body bag strapped across my front, I was wolf-whistled by a bunch of guys in a pick-up truck. It’s plus 30 degrees Celsius, so my choice of outfit is not meant to attract attention – rather, it’s to keep me from over-heating. This morning I got up with 20 minutes to get ready for the day before I was sprinting out the door to catch my bus, so I’m wearing nothing but mascara and my hair is completely natural – a messy array of wavy and straight sections.

    I’m aware that what I see in the mirror is not necessarily what others see. To me, I look like a mess because I’m perfectly aware of the giant bags under my eyes. To others, I must still be a pretty girl walking down the street. I’ll get whistled at even when I’m coming home from school, a backpack on and the thought of physics homework keeping my head busy while boys drive by and think that I’m just another pretty face. It’s funny how much changes once they find out that I’m heavily involved in the music program at my school and that I volunteer at my church nearly every week.

    You really aren’t the only one! There’s a lot of us out there and I can only hope that one day this mindset will have changed and beauty won’t cause young girls to be objectified as they are today.

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  19. Being a sixteen year old high school student I was bullied for quite a while in school. Not really bullying but general mean comments about me. Having done stuff (good stuff) and become a part of the Student Government at my school I have seen people who were mean to me become nice to me and it’s the same me, just sans braces and a bit more confidence. It’s weird to have people who you detested tell you that your nice. Why is it so that teenagers follow the mob-mentality, why is it so your social standing and physical appearance determine your popularity?

    i Really related to your post. Thankyou so much for writing and sharing your views. Best of luck.

    movingabouteverywhere.wordpress.com

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  20. I am fortunate wordpress recommended your blog for me tonight, I was working on a poem about this very topic a few hours ago. Thank you so much for writing this, for having the courage to publish it.

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  21. Hello there! I just found your blog, but when I read this passage it was like I was reading my own thoughts. You put all of my feelings into words exactly as I feel them. I realize this is a memory for you, but it is happening in the present for me. I get the “You’re so pretty! The boys will be falling at your feet!” comments constantly. I feel degraded at a comment meant as a compliment. I want to be valued for more than my looks. Anyways, I just wanted to say thank you for posting this. You mentioned how hard it was for you to write, but it was comforting for me to see another girl who felt the exact same way that I do. Thank you so so much. -H. Elizabeth

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  22. I love your writing, as a shy-bullied boy in high school I never thought pretty women notice unpopular boy. But I could say that it change a lot in university, students are more tolerant with the minority, and it is more civilised than high school. Nowadays most pretty women are looking men with lots of $$ instead of muscle (not all of them of course).

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  23. THANK YOU! Somebody that finally gets it, you don’t understand how much this has helped me. During the end of high school (UK) i started wearing a lot of makeup and got a lot of attention from my peers and strangers, people were so kind to me, always gave me compliments which was a starch contrast from when i was younger because i got bullied for being ugly and nobody paid attention to me. For a year or two i really liked the compliments but then as i’m getting older, i hate it, i just want to yell to society that i am a really person!! thank you for this, it means a lot xxxx

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  24. This is a great piece. Not only do I hope you felt pleased to have written and shared your experience because it is your truth, I also hope you have been affirmed that it has value to others. I’m 43 now and can find much to think about in this post–both as it relates to my frequent reminiscence about my childhood and adolescence, and as I consider the scene for today’s adolescents.

    I never was the pretty one in my group of friends growing up, but my closest circle of friends were all recognized as the pretty ones. I went back and forth about my thoughts on this. I reluctantly allowed myself to acknowledge that there were times I wished I was prettier. Then I often discussed with myself (yes) the fact that I liked who I was as I was, and that I felt quite confident that the friends I had were my friends because they enjoyed me, found me compassionate or whatever was the appeal. I hadn’t made it out of high school before I put words to the fact that if I had to land on ONE place in my belief about my looks (on their own or compared to the looks of my prettier friends), it would be that I felt it made my relationships more likely to be based on the right things. There wasn’t any social advantage to being my friend, so I could assume that people just enjoyed me. I was always proud of my position on this.

    Now this goes back to YOU and YOUR POST as it should. When I read your post I was struck by the fact that you had the choice to blindly accept all the things that went along with–deservedly or undeservedly–your attractiveness and you still chose to scrutinize and decline the ones that felt superficial. Would I have taken my mature position if I had been prettier? I will never know and I do not assume either way.

    There is obvious value to this post for younger readers, but I also think its circulation to adults who think about their own life AND to those who have kids going through this age would benefit from your point of view. Nice work!

    I feel I should note here that these friends were so very much more than attractive people–they were foremost smart, well-rounded and, I felt, genuinely good and supportive friends. I believe that like you, they saw themselves as the good people they were and still are.

    Sorry for the lengthy comment! It’s your fault. 🙂

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  25. I so loved this, I think i’ve always been the opposite i’m not the pretty girl at school and I don’t get that much boy attention but in some way i understand you I want to be seen for deeper then my exterior alot of boys don’t seem to bother with that because they see me as too big and it hurts i hope one day i find a man who will.

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  26. It’s so hard to be treated one way or another based on your appearance. This is such a good reminder. I’ve been in situations like this before, wondering who my true friends are, if a guy will stick around because of my personality and not my appearance. Compliments and flattery mean nothing if someone isn’t willing to be a true friend and accept you for you. Thanks for writing this!

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  27. I totally agree with you about how hard it is to be only seen for your body. I’m while I’m not particularly “pretty”, I’m a curvy girl, and, especially when I was younger and my classmates hadn’t developed yet, received a lot of attention about my body. I’ve had to really work at getting people to see past my bra size and look at my heart and soul, and I’m so glad to have read such an accurate post about issues that affect lots of girls. Thankyou so much for having the courage to press ‘publish’!!

    Like

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